J.Arch Getty

Carlos Eduardo Rebello crebello at SPAMantares.com.br
Mon Jan 31 19:05:57 MST 2000

My personal recollections of J.Arch Getty are more mild than. We are
both members of H-Russia, in the Humanities on Line discussion list, and
I remember that, in a thread called "Auschwitz and Gulag", which
proposed that thesis comgenial to all right-wing "Sovietologists", that
Hitler's and Stalin's repressions were exactly the same, I reminded the
supporters of that thesis that Hitler's repressions were directed mainly
to an abstract enemy existing only in his imagination, while Stalinist
repression was directed at least _partially_ against really existing
opponents, as proven by the network created mainly by Leon Sedov between
Trotsky "HQs" in Constantinople and secret anti-Stalin elements in the
high spheres of the Party (something that led, BTW, to episodes like the
execution of Blunkim, when he  returned to Moscow after an encounter
with Trotsky). Some members of H-Russia considered my ideas about the
subject to be worthy of an Oliver Stone script, but Getty intervened to
say that Sedov's network was real enough and that the activities of the
Left Opposition were enough to produce an state of panic in the
Stalinist milieus of the early 1930s. Getty also considered as real the
account of the famous letter published in the Menshevik emigre newspaper
_Socialistsheki Vestnik_ about the final mass slaughter of the Left
Opposition in Vorkuta, between 1937 and 1938. Of course Getty, in his
"Origns of the Great Purges"(which I've read), tends to consider the
whole question of the Great Purges as mostly something connected with
the low levels of political education in the Party and generally
wretched standards of state administration in 1930s USSR, that gradually
lead Stalin to the idea of tightening his actual grip over the "transfer
chains" in both Party and State by means of spectacular and impressive
purges. Of course this is to miss the fundamental question of the time,
that of the *political expropriation of the working-class by Thermidor*;
and that is Getty's major mistake. the problem is not that he belittles
the scope of repression, but that he sees it mostly as an internal
struggle for control of the state apparatus, which lead him to say,
e.g., that both Stalin and Trotsky had overestimated Trotskyst
Opposition might, ie, that a great part of the purges was a
misunderstanding, when it was clear that Stalin realized that the Left
Opposition was - or could - act as a rallying-point for all kinds of
spontaneous discontents, and therefore he was not shy about killing as
"Trotskysts" mostly very young people who had no actual connection with
the LO but neverthless regarded themselves as "Trotskysts".

Carlos Rebello

> Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 13:50:48 -0500
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> Subject: Re: Bukharin
> John Lacny:
> >       Come on, Lou!  This is the kind of superficial gloss
> >on things you profess to detest in other people.  Have
> >you read the Getty-Naumov book?  Far from arguing that
> >the Terror was "minor," The Road to Terror puts forth
> >a wealth of hitherto-unknown documents, and comes to
> >the conclusion that the "thosands" killed during the
> >Terror meant hundreds of thousands.
> The big question is not the numbers, but the political interpretation that
> Getty gives. In an Oct. '93 article in the American Historical Review,
> Getty makes a big thing about the "elite" composition of Stalin's
> prisoners; their level of education was higher than working-class Soviet
> citizens. The particular spin he gives is that Russian politics was a nasty
> business and the purges were essentially a brutal inter-party affair that
> went on above the heads of the average Russian. What this does not take
> into account is the way in which "elites" always articulate the class
> interests of those who can not. People in the party, most especially those
> sympathetic to Bukharin, were always protesting the treatment of Soviet
> workers. Loren Graham's "Ghost of the Executed Engineer" details the fate
> of Peter Palchinsky, who was a Bukharin supporter and never stopped
> complaining about how Soviet workers were being abused on the Great Dneiper
> Dam project. After Palchinsky was thrown in prison, it was much easier to
> move ahead on similar projects. By analogy, the social composition of those
> who supported Allende was probably "elite" by comparison to the average
> worker or peasant in Chile. Once Pinochet was able to jail, exile or murder
> them, it became easier to impose a "neoliberal" work camp on the Chilean
> people. It is of some interest that Putin, trained as a Stalinist, admires
> Pinochet.
> >     Now Bukharin.  I admit to a personal liking for
> >the guy.  I'm willing to bet that his recantations and
> >confessions were torture-induced rather than sincere.
> >But then again, how do you explain his final letter to
> >Stalin?
> I wouldn't try to explain letters that are written when one is being
> tortured, when the sole person capable of ending the torture is the addressee.
> Louis Proyect
> (The Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org)

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